Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Karnataka government has expressed optimism about the safe release of Kannada screen idol Rajkumar, who is being held hostage by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi said that a four-member team of negotiators, including R R Gopal, editor of Tamil bi-weekly Nakkheeran, was negotiating with Veerappan for the safe release of Rajkumar. "I have received a message from Nedumaran that the hostages will be released soon," Karunanidhi said (see 'King without a jungle', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 7).

Meanwhile, Veerappan released two relatives of Rajkumar, Govindaraju and Nagesh on October 15, 2000. One of the hostages, Nagappa Maradagi had escaped from Veerappan's clutches on September 28, 2000. Rajkumar has appealed to his family members to get him released as soon as possible. He said Veerapan's behaviour towards him had changed drastically after Maradagi's escape. The Union government has expressed its willingness to help the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu government to solve the crisis as soon as possible.

Just when the two state governments were about to fulfill one the main demands of Veerappan by releasing 51 associates of his, the Supreme Court stayed their release order on the basis of a special leave petition filed by Abdul Kareem, a retired Karnataka police officer. Kareem's only son, a police officer, was killed by Veerappan in a 1993 forest ambush. The Supreme Court stated that there was no guarantee that after the release of Veerappan's associates, Rajkumar would be set free, as Veerappan's other demands were not being fulfilled. The apex court has directed both the state governments to evolve an alternative plan for securing the safe release of Rajkumar as soon as possible.

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